Southeast Asia forum

Backpacking SE Asia from Nanjing (China)

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    Dear member,

    My name is David, I'm 22 years-old. I live in Nanjing right now (one year study). I'm in holiday for the next two months.

    I would like to visit SE Asia, but if I'm honnest, I have no idea where to go exactly.

    I have not much travel experience.

    I at least would like to spend some day in really nice sunny beach during my trip

    I have a budget on 1000 - 1200 Euros.


    I already thought about Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, but I don't know if it's realistic, what to see, and about all the Visa stuff I would need.

    What would be the trip that you think the best for me ?

    Thank you

    #1 Posted: 15/12/2010 - 14:16

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6415
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    That is a tight budget. I can't advise you on beaches, but just travel and visa fees alone - you're talking about living on about 10 Euro a day after other overhead. Maybe a touch more. Hotel and Food. It's cheap here, but not that cheap.

    #2 Posted: 15/12/2010 - 23:36

  • Captain_Bob

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    1200 Euro might last about 6 weeks traveling the region, or a lot less if you splurge on anything. I doubt it's enough time/money to do those four countries. Benchmark daily cost on a lower budget is around 20E/day, but it can be more expensive on southern beach hotspots. Either get frugal on accommodation/eating/drinking or keep it a tad shorter and worry less about money. I'd stick with 2 countries, maybe northern Laos and Thailand north-south (and choose the south spots wisely). That's more realistic and still lots of great travel involved.

    #3 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 01:00

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    Yeah, but I for exemple can have a plane ticket for Bangkok for 150€ which I think it's quite okay.

    But I can try to cut some place (even a country) off.

    I leave in china for 2€ of food a day, so not that much.

    What would you recommand me to "cut off" if I have to

    #4 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 01:05

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    Actually Cambodia and Vietnam (especially Cambodia) I don't know what to expect, if it's really worthy.
    Or maybe I'll try another time.

    What would you recommand about the "south spots", I would like one of the cheapest if possible (as I'll be mostly just take sunbath and swim a bit).

    #5 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 01:07

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6415
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    I can't think of anyplace down south where you can find a place to stay for 300 baht a night... there's probably someplace, but my son, who travels cheap, was damn lucky to find something at 500 baht.

    #6 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 01:45

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    I'm playing with fare compare website.

    I found a ticket to go from Kuala Lumpur to a town near nanjing, the whole cost (with train to go back home) would be 75€.

    Would you think it would be a good idea to take this flight ?

    Or do you think that even for "cheaper" flight, it doesn't worth to go to Malaysia ?

    #7 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 01:56

  • Tilapia

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    Hi David,

    The last couple of times I was in Thailand (and Laos) I found that I spent around $500 CDN per month on the basic necessities, and another $150, or so, on beer. You have about $1500 CDN. I think that you should do okay with what you have providing you're careful.

    Take advantage of guest houses that offer dorm rooms. Take rooms with shared bathrooms if there is no dorm. For example, Apple II Guest House or The Green House in Bangkok. A couple of years ago you could still get a single with a shared bathroom for B180 at the Apple II. Dorm rooms were B100.

    During holiday season (Christmas, Chinese New Year, etc.) stay away from the popular islands and resort towns. If you want to go to a decent island with affordable bungalows, try Koh Wai. I stayed at Paradise a while back where bungalows on the beach were B250. If you want to go to one of the southern islands, go when it's not holiday season.

    I love traveling in the Northeastern part of Thailand. It's not visited much, you can always find somewhere to stay that's nice, the people are excellent, the scenery (especially along the Mekong River) is wonderful, and the food is great and cheap (though some here may argue that point). It is the best part of the country for travelers on a budget.

    Street food is very inexpensive. If you stick to one dish meals, you can get by on about what you are paying now.

    If you drink beer you might find that a large bottle in a place on, for example, Khao San Road, will cost half as much as the room you're staying in. Buy your beer from small shops, or at the small, roadside food stalls. Western food is often stupidly expensive (eg. Starbucks).

    Southern Laos is also a good area to go to for budget travelers.

    Good luck.

    #8 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 03:53

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    Do you think it's a better idea to fly to arrive in Laos / Thailand.
    Or it's better to fly to come back to Nanjing ?

    For example, it would cost me 75€ to come back to my place from Kuala Lumpur, but do you think I could manage to quickly go to Malaysia on my way down Thailand, just a few days in order to take my flight ?

    I don't know what would be the total cost to join Laos by train from Nanjing, I know that from cities in the south of Kunming there are buses, but I don't know the cost, and I don't know how much will it cost me to go a bit towards the south of Laos.

    Do you think Laos is more worthy than Cambodia or Vietnam ?

    #9 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 10:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6415
    Total reviews: 10

    I would say no place is "more worthy". Everyone has different tastes. For me, Laos is last on the list because there is no salsa there, and at least Hanoi, PP and Saigon have small dance scenes I could partake in. For you that probably doesn't have value, so perhaps the cool party scene (lot of young kids) in VV would be great. Or perhaps the culture of Laung Parabang (which is pricey) would hold enormous appeal. Everyone has different tastes and different objectives on their vacation, and none is "more worthy" than another - just different. The issue of cost, however, is a big one for you, because you are working with minimal funds. For that reason, rural Laos, which can be very, very cheap and /or rural Thailand, are places that might be worth exploring. But having said that, understand that in these places English won't get you by, and you will need a decent phrase book.

    #10 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 13:12

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  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    I understand what you want to say, it's a matter of opinion of course.

    But I meant "what would you think fit my "need" the best ?".

    I've read lots of forum, and I'm still confused, some people seems to hate Vang Vien, where apparently the tourism just ruined the "essence" of the place.


    About Thailand, and the "beaches" I don't "need" to be on a island if it's really expensive. I just want to have the opportunity to go to the beach for some sunbath and swimming, even if I have to live a bit further (as long as it is easy to get to the beach by bus/boat.)

    I don't know if I explained myself correctly (english is not my mother language).

    To sum-up, I want to have access to a beautiful beach, and don't mind to actually sleep a bit further, if it's much cheaper.
    Also, I found out than flying from the south of China, at the beginning of January, would cost me 100€ (train to got to the south of china included) to go to Thailand.

    Do you think it's a good idea ?

    #11 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 16:06

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6415
    Total reviews: 10

    I can't help you at all on the travel prices. Sorry. I'm just not the right guy to ask as I go everywhere on my motorcycle. Some others here can help you more there.
    As for VV - I don't subscribe the notion of places being "ruined by tourism". Nothing in this world stays static. Tourism changed the nature of that town - without a doubt. That has brought positives and negatives with it. It has an appeal to the backpacker kid set which you may or may not like. Easy enough to find video on it and determine if it's something you would enjoy or not.

    #12 Posted: 16/12/2010 - 19:06

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    I have some kind of overall idea or what could I do :
    Train : Nanjing -> Guilin (yangshuo) for 2 days
    Train : Guilin -> Nanning ( and stay one day)
    Bus : Nanning -> Hannoi (stay 3 days)
    Train : Hannoi -> Nha Trang (stay 3 days)
    Train : Nha Trang -> Saigon (Stay 3 days)
    Bus / Train : Saigon -> Phnom Penh (stay 3 days)
    Bus / Train : I wish to go to a not touristy place to have more contact with native Cambodian and culture (Ratanakiri ???)
    Bus / train : This place to Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) (stay 3 days)
    Bus / Train : Siem Reap -> Bangkok (stay 5 days)
    Bus / Train : Koh Samui (stay 5 days)
    Bus / train Koh Samui -> North East Thailand (Chang Rai and Chiang Kong at the end) (4 days)
    Boat : Chiang Kong -> Vientiane (4 days)
    Bus / Train : Vientiane -> Vang Vieng (3 days)
    Bus / Train : Vang Vieng -> Louang Prabang (3 days)
    Bus / Train : Louang Prabang -> North Laos

    Then come back to Kunming and to Nanjing (Train)


    The main problem is maybe my budget, but even more that I don't know if I can really enjoyr each place with that little time in each.
    But I don't really know what to suppress to be honnest.

    #13 Posted: 17/12/2010 - 10:59

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    I' m absolutly open to your suggestion : Is it realistic, is it not.

    And especially : What are the place that maybe I could skip, to enjoy more the other, or to add another one ?

    I really appreciate your help,

    (I know I'm a bit of an anoying young man :D)

    #14 Posted: 17/12/2010 - 14:45

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6415
    Total reviews: 10

    One option you might consider (not sure if youu could do this in Laos or not) is too look for an apartment to rent. You could spend a month somewhere and if you rented a cheap place for, say, 1,500 baht it would really cut down on your expenses. Of course it means spending a lot of time in one general geograghic area.

    #15 Posted: 18/12/2010 - 13:29

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    That's a good idea indeed.
    But the problem is that I actually try to see a lot of different places and towns.

    The problem is that my French bank was supposed to already have transfered my money to Nanjing ABC bank, but they still didn't launch it.
    I'm so furious ! and with the holidays coming, and the week-end it will be hard.
    So I have to option maybe you could help me.

    Do you know if for exemple, my money was transfered from France to Nanjing ABC Bank, as my first week of travel is within China (toward vietnam). If I'm in Nanning when the transfered as been completed, could I go (without any previous operation) to an ABC Bank in Nanning and just withdraw and convert the money ?

    The other option is to wait, and if it's that ... I'll have to completly change my travel plan.

    I hate the French lazy bank !

    #16 Posted: 18/12/2010 - 13:39

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6415
    Total reviews: 10

    I have no idea, I don't know squat about banking in China. But if it were me, I'd wait. It would really suck if you got on the road and then had to backtrack because the money could only be picked up at your original bank.

    #17 Posted: 18/12/2010 - 22:34

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    My god, I never read such absolute opposite on a topic than that : Some people love Lao people, some people hate them.

    I've read topic saying there were always nice, smilling, helpful and not interested in ripping you off (and I heard that Cambodian where the countrary).

    And now, I read also the opposite (Lao are dodgy and Cambodian "pure").

    What did YOU think about those people ?

    Also, do you think South Laos worth a visit ? (I have the overall idea of my trip, but there are some area that I'll miss totally (South Laos, North East Cambodia)

    Also, I plan to do a loop starting from Nanjing (China), entering Vietnam (Hanoi) and go south, then going to cambodia, then thailand, then Laos, to go up to Kunming China.

    But what would be the best (regarding "peak season", prices etc, to avoid too many "tourists") to begin my loop from Vietnam, or from Laos (my full loop will take me a bit less than 2 months) ?

    Thank You !

    #18 Posted: 22/12/2010 - 10:07

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
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    You can draw out money at any ABC Bank if you have a Union Pay card - which should have been given to you with your bank account. You can actually use Union Pay in Thailand (Bangkok at least) but I can't say if Union Pay is available in other locations . . . I seem to remember seeing it on an ATM in Vietnam. This is basically the same as seeing a VISA symbol on an ATM in Europe or the USA meaning you can draw out money, but there will be a hefty charge for doing it from a different bank in a different country.

    Converting money in China is always difficult. It must be a certain bank branch - as not all do it - and sometimes you have to make an appointment if it is for a 'strange' currency. To get Thai Baht or Vietnamese Dong an appointment was required in Nanjing. You can go to the large Bank of China near the Southwestern corner of Xinjiakou. They need the appointment because they often don't have this currency on hand and need to bring it from a larger branch in Shanghai. There are often restrictions on how much currency you can change in a day (as a foreigner) so you may have to bring a Chinese friend to get a large amount changed at one time.

    If you are in Nanning it may be different as Vietnam is near. It would be better to change the money into USD anyway, as that is easier to exchange than RMB - there can be much more difficulty exchanging RMB in foreign countries than if you have USD or EURO.

    I like Lao people. The only Cambodian I ever knew was my ex-girlfriend in Seattle . . . and she was pretty cool.

    #19 Posted: 22/12/2010 - 14:44

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
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    Location China
    Posts: 1265
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    You'll save money if you spend less time in Bangkok.

    Also, you say:


    Boat : Chiang Kong -> Vientiane (4 days)
    Bus / Train : Vientiane -> Vang Vieng (3 days)
    Bus / Train : Vang Vieng -> Louang Prabang (3 days)
    Bus / Train : Louang Prabang -> North Laos

    That boat ride is long and not that fantastic from everyone I've heard. Most wish they got off at Luang Prabang. So - if you want to save a little time you could get off there and make LP your hub for exploring the north. You would save time and money by avoiding Vientiane and Vang Vieng . . . but for some that would be an option not worth choosing.

    Once you get into China, Jinhong and Xishuangbanna are a nice place to spend a couple of days but you could also cool off a little by going up to Lijiang and doing Tiger Leaping Gorge before you travel on to Kunming.

    Remember that flights from Kunming to Nanjing, if booked in advance, can actually be as cheap as a train ticket (sleeper at least) and will save you a lot of time (including the money you'll spend eating on the train).

    Check out elong.com and ctrip.com

    #20 Posted: 22/12/2010 - 14:57

  • pocketboy

    Joined Travelfish
    15th December, 2010
    Posts: 11

    Thank you,

    Actually, I've done another trip schedule, I think I'll go from Siem Reap to Bangkok, then go to Koh Samui, then go back to Bangkok just to take the train for Vientiane, then I'll go north to reach China (stopping at Vang Vieng to cut the journey, and Luang Prabang to visit).

    #21 Posted: 22/12/2010 - 15:01

  • caseyprich

    Joined Travelfish
    3rd March, 2010
    Location China
    Posts: 1265
    Total reviews: 53
    Places visited:
    At least 48

    Northern Thailand is wonderful, but no use trying to see everything at once. The new schedule sounds more logical for both time and money.

    #22 Posted: 22/12/2010 - 16:36

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